February 16, 2012

Berkshire Cycling: The Landscape of Home, 8

 Just What Did I Say?

The Pyrenees
Ahhh, the what-have-I gotten myself into post. The fess-up post. It seems to have happened so simply.

Most readers know that I am wild about cycling in southern France.

Most also probably know that it is really pretty good riding here where I live, too.

Berkshires Roads

Many readers know that finishing my last cycle tour and returning to daily life was challenging, thought provoking and somewhat puzzling to me. Never having outgrown that two-year old stage of asking why, I got to wondering about the nature of cycling experience and how it is different from genre to genre. Why is touring so much more compelling to me? Why is it so rewarding, so much fun, why do I want to ride, what defines the nature of experience. You get it, those big metaphysical,  philosophical questions.

Some regular readers might remember that my answers to those questions partially had to do with the nature of sport, and of goals.

An element of sport, and goals
A very few might remember that I decided that it would be good to have specific goals here in the US, ones that don't require buying plane tickets to France or taking time off work, time that I do not have.

Probably no one remembers that I decided to ride a 100K randonnée on St. Patricks' Day, because I said very little about it. I have been trying to convince friends and colleagues to ride with me. All but one of the people I ride with didn't need to say a word ... they just gave me a powerful look that said, "what, have you lost your mind ... well I haven't lost mine, absolutely not!"

So of course the people who tentatively agreed to participate with me are considerably younger, stronger riders. This is only important to me because I am certainly very unlikely to keep up with anyone.

Suburban DC roads
I am planning on visiting my sister and her family in hopefully sunny, somewhat southern,  metropolitan Washington DC, two weeks before that ride, so I thought: take my bike along for a good, long, prep ride before the 100K RUSA ride. That should help the training.(You can find other RUSA-sponsored rides here: RUSA.)

Roads there are extremely suburban with lots of fast traffic everywhere. After all these rural years, when in the U.S. I am a country mouse rider.

I  went to There and Back Again  looking for some long rides not too far south of my sister's house. Steve writes a good and informative blog, particularly if you have any interest in the Washington, DC area.

Before I knew what happened, I had signed up for the VASA ride in DC. It seemed like a good warm-up ride at the time. Literally warmer, no climbing and shorter I thought, 52 miles. What's more, it promised warm blueberry soup in the Swedish Embassy. That's pretty glamorous these days for a country mouse rider.

Reality has been sinking in. The RUSA - sanctioned randonnée on St. Patricks Day is 62 miles, and must be finished in 6 hrs and 20 minutes. The VASA ride is now described as 59 miles, and to get the blueberry soup in the Embassy, you have to finish within 5-1/2 hours. And that is in a city. Traffic. Stop lights. Stop signs. Sounds slow to me. Visions of the Embassy and blueberry soup are disappearing. And the goal is changing. This isn't prep for the 100K ride 2 weeks later. Essentially it is the 100K ride, but with two weeks less training.

Is it my imagination or is this is a recognizable phenomena in the recreational cyclist's world. The one thing leads to another category. Any hints from out there? Stories of yours?


  1. I'm not sure I'd fancy nearly 60 miles in heavy traffic, even for blueberry soup. But if you go for it, I'll be cheering for you from France - and probably eating pumpkin soup. Half a freezerful of pumpkins to get through still ...

  2. Good morning Steph,
    The ride is on a Sunday morning, so there will be more traffic than here, but surely not like my funny photos! Wish they would release the route. We need a sleuth to leak it! Punpkin soup in your freezee, cabbage in mine.

  3. Suze,

    You can get an idea of the route by reading my report on last year's ride. Just search under "vasaloppet" to find it or look in the Organized Rides category. Be advised that I left the official route at about Mile 44 (around Bethesda) because my two companions were tiring and wanted to head back sooner.

    I have several heartening things to report:

    1. You are right in that the traffic will be far less than what you depict in your picture. Some of it could even be described as "country." I don't want to oversell this aspect of the ride, but this is definitely not lower Manhatten we're talking about - especially on a Sunday morning.

    2. There are shorter versions of the ride (about 30 miles long) if you'd rather do that.

    3. If you take the longer ride but change your mind, you can always simply turn around and head back. Nobody will care as nobody is out there. This is an unsupported event and you can ride back to the Swedish Embassy at the time of your choosing.

    Now, having encouraged you to undertake this I must now confess that I am about to do something very similar and am shaking my head at my folly. The DC Rondonneurs will be holding a 200 km ride RIGHT BY MY HOUSE and I feel compelled to join in the fun, despite the fact that it is only two weeks after Vasa and I haven't ridden over 50 miles for many weeks. I'm hopeful the Vasa Ride will get me back into shape!

    1. Good morning Steve,

      Thanks, that is helpful!

      First thing I did after registering was return to your site to read your report. Have to say I wouldn't have shown up in the rain! Perhaps it will be the same route, or very similar. There are a few other reports from previous years on the web and it looks as if it often uses MacArthur Blvd. and River Road. Nelle in their office says they will send cue sheets a few days ahead of time.

      Did I mention somewhere that long ago I biked to work? In Lower Manhattan ... well not quite Lower but close enough.

      Think what I'll do is treat this as the training ride it is supposed to be, ride out for a set length of time, then if I don't make it the whole way, follow your suggestion and turn around, retrace my steps. It's not the distance that might stop me, it's the time. Had thought about short-cutting the loop, but no longer know the city well enough. So thanks for that, now I have a plan.

      A 200km. Now that is daunting, but right by your house, how could you not? (I'm working on an interview with a rider who frequently rides endurance rides, including P-B-P, so am learning something about them.) Good on you! Surely the WASA will be great prep for that one also.

      Happy pedaling, and I'll watch out for you at the Embassy!

  4. I was going to suggest that you check out Steve's rainy rendition of that ride from last year, but I see you have both beat me to it.

    Here's what Joe Friel would say (Joe, I hope you don't mind the liberties..): treat these 'b' and 'c' events as training and don't get yourself too worked up over them. Focus on the main race(s) of the year. I've got a race coming up this weekend that I find myself disturbingly unexcited about, since Rob has told me to work it into my training program. Whether this is a good attitude to have before any race will be evident come Saturday!

    Good luck in DC and hope you get the chance to meet Steve and his new Madone!

  5. Hi Gerry,

    Good to hear from you. I'd forgotten that part of Friel, so thanks! I am going to try to stick to a set time to ride and head back after half of that time is done. I think that is pretty much in his spirit of stay focused on the main event.

    Hope Steve will be healed up enough to ride it, it would be fun to meet him ... especially so since it was his post that got me into this. And I can admire his handsome new bike!


Please leave a comment, it's great to hear from you and makes the site more fun and informative for other readers!